AskDefine | Define militant

Dictionary Definition

militant adj
1 engaged in war; "belligerent (or warring) nations"; "a fighting war" [syn: belligerent, fighting, war-ridden, warring]
2 showing a fighting disposition without self-seeking; "highly competitive sales representative"; "militant in fighting for better wages for workers"; "his self-assertive and ubiquitous energy" [syn: competitive] n : a militant reformer [syn: activist]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈmɪlɪtənt/, /"mIlIt@nt/




  1. an aggressive or fighting person
  2. one who serves as a soldier

Related terms

Extensive Definition

For the British newspaper and Marxist organization see Militant tendency. For the newspaper of the US Socialist Workers Party see The Militant.
The word militant has come to refer to any individual or party engaged in aggressive physical or verbal combat, usually for a cause. Journalists often use militant as a neutral term for soldiers who do not belong to an established government military organization. Typically, a militant engages in violence as part of a claimed struggle against oppression, but the word is sometimes used to describe anyone with strongly held views (e.g. militant Christian, militant atheist).
Popular usage sometimes sees "militants" as synonymous with terrorists. The term "militant state" colloquially refers to a state which holds an aggressive posture in support of an ideology or cause. In French, Spanish and Philippine English the term "militant" retains a more moderate meaning of "activist" which it formerly had in most other varieties of English. In other words, a militant person is a confrontative person, regardless of the use of physical violence or pacifistic methods.

Characteristics of militancy

Persons described as militants -- either individuals or groups (composed of citizens) -- have usually enrolled and trained for service in a particular cause. Militants may fill their ranks either by enlistment or by conscription. The term usually implies aggressive and vigorous power. Some militant views have an inherent implication of intolerance. The work and support of militants commonly occurs within the limits of international law, humanity, and civil disobedience.
The term militant can describe those who aggressively and violently promote a political philosophy in the name of a movement (and sometimes have an extreme solution for their goal). Sample goals of modern militants may include establishing dictatorships or establishing a single world government. The various movements that seek to apply militancy as a solution, or who use militancy to rationalize their solutions for issues in the modern world seldom share common tactics. Traits shared by many militants include:
  1. employing force or violence directly, either in offence or in defense
  2. justifying the use of force using the ideological rhetoric of their particular group
A militant view sometimes constitutes an extremist's position. A person or group in a psychologically militant state expresses a physically aggressive posture while in support of an ideology or of a cause.

Potential legal restrictions

One could argue that those resisting a foreign military occupation do not merit the label terrorists because their acts of political violence against the military targets of a foreign occupier do not violate international law. Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions gives lawful combatant status to those engaging in armed conflicts against alien (or foreign) occupation, colonial domination and racist régimes. Non-uniformed guerrillas also gain combatant status if they carry arms openly during military operations. Protocol 1 does not legitimise attacks on civilians by militants who fall into these categories, however.
The concept is spelled out in the major UN General Assembly Resolution on terrorism (42/159, December 7, 1987). which condemns international terrorism and outlines measures to combat the crime, with one proviso: "that nothing in the present resolution could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter of the United Nations, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right..., particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation or other forms of colonial domination, nor...the right of these peoples to struggle to this end and to seek and receive support [in accordance with the Charter and other principles of international law]." The Resolution passed 153-2, US and Israel opposed, Honduras alone abstaining.

Etymology of the word

The word militant comes from the 15th Century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier". The related modern concept of the militia as a defensive organization against invaders grew out of the Anglo-Saxon "fyrd". In times of crisis, the militiaman left his civilian duties and became a soldier until the emergency was over, when he returned to his civilian status.

Mass media usage of the word

The mass media often uses the term "militant" in the context of terrorism. Journalists often apply the term militant to movements using terrorism as a tactic. The mass media also has repeatedly called terrorist organizations militant groups or radical militants. The terms often serve to avoid usage of the term terrorists.
Newspapers, magazines, and other information sources may deem militant a neutral term, whereas terrorist conventionally indicates disapproval of the behavior of the individual or organization so labeled, regardless of the motivations for such behavior. Militant, other times, can refer to any individual engaged in warfare, a fight, combat, or generally serving as a soldier.


Militants occur across the political spectrum, including white supremacists, separatists, abortion opponents, and environmentalists. Examples of left-wing, right-wing, and special interest militants include militant reformers, militant feminists, militant animal rights advocates, and anarchists. The phrase militant Islam can suggest (excessively) violent and aggressive political activity by Islamic individuals, groups, movements, or governments. The phrase militant atheist is usually used as a pejorative by critics when discussing those people who are more outspoken than the general population on subjects which explicitly or implicitly promote atheism. Various secret societies are known to be militarists.
Some groups who identify themselves as militants include:

See also

Compare and contrast these related articles:
  • Activist - individuals in intentional action to bring about social or political change.
  • Anarchists - Philosophy that opposes the existence of a State and favor voluntary relationships between individuals and communities.
  • Black Muslim - religious and political organization founded in the United States by Wallace Fard Muhammad in 1930 with a declared aim of "resurrecting" the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of the black man and woman of America and the world.
  • Belligerent - one of a contracting parties in a conflict.
  • Black Panther Party - revolutionary Black nationalist organization in the United States that formed in the late 1960s
  • Church militant (Ecclesia Militans) - Christians who are living.
  • combat or fighting- purposeful conflict between one or more persons, often involving violence and intended to establish dominance over the opposition.
  • combatant - a soldier or guerrilla member who is waging war.
  • crusader - Warriors in a series of several military campaigns—usually sanctioned by the Papacy—that took place during the 11th through 13th century. Used contemporarily to describe people that attack Islam, whether perceived or real.
  • demonstrator - An individual who is publicly displaying the common opinion of an activist group, often economically, political, or socially, by gathering in a crowd, usually at a symbolic place or date, associated with that opinion.
  • extremist - term used to describe either ideas or actions thought by critics to be hyperbolic and unwarranted.
  • fundamentalism - anti-modernist movements in various religions.
  • guerrilla - small combat groups and the individual members of such groups operating with small, mobile and flexible combat groups called cells, without a front line.
  • Insurgent - an armed rebellion by any irregular armed force that rises up against an established authority, government, administration or occupation.
  • Islamofascist - controversial area which examines the parallels and intersections between various forms of neofascism and contemporary religions and religious movements.
  • Malcolm X - prominent black nationalist leaders born in the United States and advocated black pride and identity politics.
  • man-at-arms - medieval term for a soldier, almost always a professional.
  • mercenary - soldier who fights, or engages in warfare primarily for private gain, usually with little regard for ideological, national or political considerations.
  • military - any armed force, it generally refers to a permanent, professional force of soldiers or guerrillas.
  • Militant Islam - Used by Western political commentators to describe the ideologies of groups viewed as participating in Islamic terrorism.
  • Militant tendency - Trotskyist group within the UK Labour Party, accused of entryist tactics. They were most powerful during the 1970s and 1980s.
  • partisan - member of a lightly-equipped irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation.
  • protester - expresses relatively overt reaction to events or situations: sometimes in favour, more often opposed.
  • rebel - individuals who participate in rebellions
  • Reform Movement - kind of social movement that aims to make gradual change, or change in certain aspects of the society rather than rapid or fundamental changes.
  • rioter - people in crowds committing crimes or acts of violence
  • soldier - person who has enlisted with, or has been conscripted into, the armed forces of a sovereign country and has undergone training and received equipment to defend that country or its interests.
  • war - state of widespread conflict between states, organisations, or relatively large groups of people, which is characterised by the use of violent, physical force between combatants or upon civilians.
  • warrior - person habitually engaged in combat. In tribal societies, warriors often form a caste or class of their own.
  • zealot - An individual that is zealous on behalf of God.


militant in Danish: Militant
militant in French: Militant
militant in Dutch: Militant
militant in Japanese: 過激派
militant in Swedish: Militant

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

active, activist, activistic, aggressive, aggressor, alive, animated, antagonistic, assertive, at war, ball of fire, battler, battling, beaver, bellicose, belligerent, belted knight, bickerer, big-time operator, blade, bloodthirsty, bloody, bloody-minded, bouncing, bouncy, bravo, brawler, breezy, brisk, bubbly, bully, bullyboy, bustler, busy bee, chauvinist, chauvinistic, chipper, combatant, combative, competitor, contender, contentious, contestant, disputant, doer, duelist, eager beaver, ebullient, effervescent, embattled, enemy, energetic, enforcer, enthusiast, fencer, ferocious, feuder, fierce, fighter, fighting, fighting cock, foilsman, frisky, full of fight, full of go, full of life, full of pep, gamecock, gladiator, go-getter, goon, gorilla, hatchet man, hawkish, hood, hoodlum, hooligan, hostile, human dynamo, hustler, inimical, jingo, jingoish, jingoist, jingoistic, jouster, knight, live, live wire, lively, man of action, man of deeds, martial, mercurial, militaristic, military, new broom, offensive, operator, peppy, perky, pert, plug-ugly, political activist, powerhouse, pugnacious, pushful, pushing, pushy, quarreler, quarrelsome, quicksilver, rioter, rival, rough, rowdy, ruffian, saber-rattling, sabreur, sanguinary, sanguineous, savage, scrapper, scrappy, scuffler, self-assertive, smacking, snappy, soldier, soldierlike, soldierly, spanking, spirited, sprightly, spry, squabbler, strong arm, strong-arm man, strong-armer, struggler, swashbuckler, sword, swordplayer, swordsman, take-charge guy, thug, tilter, tough, trigger-happy, truculent, tussler, unfriendly, unpacific, unpeaceable, unpeaceful, up in arms, vivacious, warlike, warmongering, warring, warrior, wheeler-dealer, winner, wrangler, zingy
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1